The Nonprofit Rebrand Experience

5 min read

If your nonprofit is rebranding, it should be done collaboratively. Bringing together different people and perspectives results in different opinions, which leads to both a more fruitful process and better outcomes. However, because of these dynamics, rebranding can be an emotional experience that includes both highs and lows. While this seems natural, people are often surprised by the fact that a nonprofit rebrand can feel like a journey.

Rebranding can be an emotional experience that includes both highs and lows. While this seems natural, people are often surprised by the fact that a nonprofit rebrand can feel like a journey. Click To Tweet

There is usually excitement about getting started with a nonprofit rebrand. As the process moves forward, the excitement wanes and the pendulum swings –– the team starts to be less excited and more nervous. Should we really do this? What if we choose the wrong name? 

In this post, I’ll walk you through the experience of a nonprofit rebrand, and some things your organization can do to leverage excitement and de-emphasize nervousness throughout the process.

Our nonprofit decided to rebrand, “we’re excited”

You’ve completed a brand perception study and weighed all of the risks and rewards of a nonprofit rebrand, and there is internal consensus that it’s time to rename and update your identity and messaging. Everyone is excited. You’ve put together an enthusiastic rebranding committee, you might have even hired an outside firm or consultant to help with the process. You’re ready to get down to business. At this phase, people are placing a lot of value on the potential opportunity a new name or brand identity might create for your nonprofit. There is less concern about the potential risks.

When folks are feeling enthusiastic and inspired, take the time to engage them in your rebranding research process. Consider conducting a focus group, interviews or even a survey, so people at your nonprofit can lend their insights and have a voice, even if they won’t be as intimately involved in the process.

Nonprofit naming exploration, the messy middle

Using your learnings from your brand research and stakeholder inputs, you start brainstorming names. This is where the rubber meets the road. The renaming process is getting real. However, very quickly, these new brainstormed names start to look like just a bunch of words on a page, and the individuals on the rebranding committee have various opinions about what is best for your nonprofit. Should you use a descriptive name? An acronym? Should you combine two words? Should you make up a word? Or none of the above? At this point, many people are starting to feel unsure about the process and perhaps renaming all together.

Prosper Strategies and our design partner, Substance, combat the uneasiness caused by word soup by getting consensus on the type of name an organization is interested in pursuing prior to the brainstorming process. Then, we identify thematic paths we want to explore to focus our brainstorming. With a focused brainstorm, name selection is smoother because you’re building consensus throughout the process. 

Nonprofit name selection, “we’re not so sure”

When the nonprofit branding committee lands on a new name, most people are elated. However, there are cases where a majority of the group feels good and there’s another part of the group that’s still not too sure. This part of the process is also hard because your new name still just looks like words on a page when you can’t see it in the context of your new visual identity –– your logo, colors and fonts.

To help organizations through this part of the process, we like to narrow our list of names down to the top five. Before even discussing them, we do our due diligence to see if the name is already in use or if there are any trademarks filed that we need to be aware of. We research domain name availability. This approach often naturally rules out some contenders. 

With the final top few names, we discuss each one as a group until we can get to a point where the majority of people feel excited about the name. Our creative director likes to say, “at this point in the process, a new name can feel like a pair of new shoes, a little uncomfortable until you walk around in them awhile.” 

The nonprofit brand reveal, “we’re on top of the world”

By the time you’re ready to launch your new identity, there’s a real sense of momentum headed into the brand reveal. The research, time and due diligence you’ve put into the process should have everyone feeling good. Many organizations like to take this as an opportunity to make a splash, hosting an event, making a visible public announcement or reaching out to media.

When nonprofit’s work with Prosper Strategies, we typically help them develop a brand rollout plan to determine how they’re going to share news of their rebrand with others, including funders, community partners, donors, clients, members of the media and any others who were not actively engaged in the nonprofit rebrand process itself. 

Hopefully a rebrand at your nonprofit is made up of more highs than lows, but if and when you run into stumbling blocks, rest assured it’s all part of the process. Curious to learn more about the nonprofit rebranding process? Download our Rebrand at a Glance whitepaper for an inside look.

A Mission-Aligned Nonprofit Rebrand At-a-Glance

The Nonprofit Rebrand Experience

Learn how Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) became Resilience through our partnership with Substance Strategic Visual Communications in 2018. You’ll learn why RVA rebranded and how we came to deliver them a unique look and name with Resilience.

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